My experience of MRCPsych Paper B - Dr Praveen Kumar
May 02, 2022
Are you an overseas psychiatrist taking the postgraduate route to GMC registration through the MRCPsych exams? Are you interested in sitting the exams in the future?
As part of IMG Stories, we introduce to you Dr Praveen Kumar, a psychiatrist who has recently sat and passed the MRCPsych Paper B exam. Praveen will be sharing with you his experiences of the second of the Royal College of Psychiatrists exams, taking you through his preparation, experience of sitting the exam and sharing some hot tips for international MRCPsych aspirants.
1. Tell us about yourself... what should the IMG Community know about Praveen Kumar?
I'm a Malaysian psychiatrist and I completed most of my training as an Ob-Gyn in Borneo. I originally came to the UK for the PLAB 2 exam, with my ultimate aim being to relocate to Australia. I had planned on spending a few weeks in the UK as a vacation, as it was my first time flying to the west. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was stuck in the UK for some time.
I decided to enter the psychiatry training programme in Inverness, Scotland (CT1) just out of curiosity, because mental health was hardly spoken about in rural Malaysia, so I knew little about it. This was my main plan while I waited for restrictions to ease in Malaysia so I could return home, however plans changed, and I've been here ever since.
2. What motivated you to sit the MRCPsych exams?
I had no experience in psychiatry before starting my training in February 2021, but I felt I owed it to my patients to have at least some basic knowledge. I felt studying for MRCPsych would prepare me for the role, so I took Part A and B early on.
3. At what point in your career and training did you sit the MRCPsych Paper B exam?
I sat Paper A in December 2020 and Paper A in October 2021, so this was quite early on in my training.
4. How far in advance did you start preparing for the MRCPsych Paper B and how much time did you spend on revision?
I began preparing around 6 months before the exam. I'd have 8-20 hours of zoom study sessions weekly for the 6 months, studying around 4-6 days a week.
5. Did you benefit from speaking to senior colleagues or peers about the exam? Did you study with other candidates?
I relied on study groups via a WhatsApp group for discussions and attended weekly zoom study sessions. I formed a study group by seeking out other candidates after posting a message on MRCPsych groups on Facebook.
6. Have you already completed MRCPsych Paper A and how do you feel it prepared you for the Paper B exam?
I completed MRCPsych A on Dec 2020. By then I had already conducted many group studies and had 117 group study mates that continued with me into part B. We did the same format of group study that I hosted before.
7. How did you manage to juggle other commitments whilst studying for the exam (without panicking)?
Since I am on my own here in the UK, I was able to invest a lot of time and energy in hosting daily study sessions because at the start, it kept me grounded while I was stuck in a foreign country. It gave me the opportunity to communicate with so many people in a setting other than my workplace. It was fairly challenging initially while I moved between Airbnbs (7 in total!) while waiting for flights back home. It was only when I was accepted into a psychiatry training programme in Inverness and acquired stable accommodation that things became a lot easier.
8. What resources did you use to prepare and practice for the MRCPsych Paper B exam?
The hardest part was actually statistics which took up 1/3rd of the exam questions, so the goal was to complete the statistics syllabus, then move onto cover clinicals, repeat statistics again, then finally start mocks before the exam. This was the process that was recommended to me by some friends who passed the exam before me.
The SPMM mocks and high yield questions were most helpful for clinical and stats, but the psychmentor notes were also really good with the questions and mocks helping to fortify our knowledge.
The Statistics and Research Methods (Cambridge Crash Course) by Dr Paul Wilkinson helped loads with statistics near the end.
I didn’t use any notes or SPMM videos, but I’ve heard they helped others quite a lot.
9. Let's face it, exams are not everyone's favourite day out... so on the day of the exam, what did you do to relax?
I prepped by reassuring myself that I did practice and study as best I could. I was ultimately looking to gather knowledge that would allow me to better help my patients. Whatever else came out of the process was secondary.
10. What was your experience like on the day?
I felt like I could hear the voices of my study mates as I did the exam. It didn't feel particularly difficult to be honest, because I'd had lot of practice sessions.
11. What was the most challenging part of the exam?
There were some tricky bits, for example being asked the percentage of patients who have a particular illness!
12. Now that the MRCPsych exam is provided online, how (if at all) was the test different to exams sat in person?
I didn't see it as much different to be honest.
13. In hindsight, would you have done anything differently?
Nothing really. I genuinely enjoyed the study sessions and I hope others did too.
14. What nugget of advice would you give to any MRCPsych Paper B aspirants?
Form or join a study group with people from various backgrounds. Mine had folks from around the globe with psychiatry experience ranging from none at all to 12 years. Their input was gold - more so since the exam is very relevant to our day-to-day practice.
15. What are your plans going forward?
I’m actually doing a couple of diplomas at the moment. I plan to collaborate with some people on some research/publication opportunities. This is mostly to bide time during CT2 as I am only allowed to sit the CASC exam during CT3 after 2 years psychiatry experience.
The postgraduate route to GMC registration, whilst not the fastest, can be the most rewarding in the long run. The MRCPsych exams are the central components of psychiatry training in the UK, and as an international psychiatrist, this is the route that allows you to most closely align your qualifications with the requirements of more senior roles in the NHS.
Join the IMG Psychiatrists Facebook group for access to a community of like-minded overseas MRCPsych aspirants and dedicated psychiatry recruiters.
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